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Ross County 3 Dundee United 0: Driving force behind juggernaut is the Kiss of death for visitors

YOU wondered just what the great Jim McLean, back in his fearsome prime, would have made of it all.

Filip Kiss celebrates the second of his doublePhotograph: SNS
Filip Kiss celebrates the second of his doublePhotograph: SNS

Two young players, still with everything to prove, packed off on a sunshine break for a spot of mid-season rest and recuperation. McLean, surely, would have been more prone to sending Ryan Gauld and John Souttar off for extra training with a sharp clip around the ear.

Jackie McNamara, though, is a thoroughly modern young coach, full of ideas and promise, but now grappling with his toughest spell in management. Whether Dundee United would have faired any better with their young prospects yesterday will never be known, but the visitors were hit by a formidable juggernaut in rejuvenated Ross County.

Filip Kiss, one of six January signings boldly fielded together by manager Derek Adams, stamped his mark all over an ultimately beaten and bedraggled United.

It was the killer third goal of the day, though, that really underscored the on-loan Cardiff City midfielder's class.

"If I'm honest, that was the best goal I've ever scored," Kiss admitted. "If you take into account the distance and quality of shot then it was the best goal of my life. Hopefully, it wasn't the last, and I can score even better goals."

Kiss believes County will also only get better after taking 10 points from their last 12 on the recovery trail. A County team who went 10 games before New Year without victory have now beaten Inverness, St Johnstone and United, while drawing away to Partick Thistle. It is not hard to see why.

The Kiss performance was just one of many positives for Adams, as County leapfrogged Partick into 10th position. On this evidence, the Highlanders can set their sights much higher.

United's season has taken exactly the opposite turn, and they are now without a win in six games. While Gauld and Souttar were packed off to the Spanish sunshine, the remaining players looked jaded against re-energised County. Jordan Slew, the loan addition from Blackburn Rovers was again immense in his strength and control. There was also a debut goal for Yoann Arquin, snapped up from Notts County on a year's deal.

Farid El Alagui made his first start for United after a substitute contribution at Inverness, while Stuart Arm strong was surprisingly dropped to the bench.

In the early skirmishes, United looked the more menacing before County settled into a groove and it took a terrific Calum Butcher saving tackle to thwart Slew as he foraged into the box.

County had several dead ball opportunities, with both Graham Carey and Richard Brittain testing Radoslaw Cierzniak with strikes under his bar.

But the hosts noticeably raised the tempo midway through the first half, with a sustained spell of pressure and four minutes before the break their persistence paid off. Another perfectly-measured Carey delivery from the left found Kiss arriving to head high past Cierzniak from five yards.

As the second half opened, Gary Mackay-Steven caused a brief flutter for County but, mostly, the tide was in Tangerine faces. And the Highlanders were home and dry halfway through the second period. After 67 minutes, Slew produced an explosive surge on the left, cutting inside and striking hard at goal. New signing Arquin chested the ball into the back of the net for a dream start to his career in Scotland.

Adams' side then sealed it when Kiss produced his moment of magic with a sublime strike from fully 30 yards. There was no way back for McNamara's men.

United's problems are not easy to pin down, but the Tannadice boss did his best. "We looked soft at the back and they dominated us. I thought we could have handled it better," McNamara said. "We started well enough but lost our discipline after the first goal. It's little things that cost you. The shape when we lost the first goal for example. If you don't defend properly you put yourself under pressure."

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